You can see all of the chapters (in descending order) here.
After a short time on the road, Jess checked the service on her phone and was able to contact her parents to let them know what had gone on and that they had been delayed with the flat tire but were getting close.
Jess left out the incident with the man at the gas station. She’d share that news in person so as not to overly worry her mom. Her mom’s health hadn’t been great since she’d had the pacemaker installed six months ago.
Since Ned Crankston was following them to the cabin and it was already getting late, she told her parents to wait till morning to come to the cabin. “I know mom. We’ll be careful. We’re only about an hour out now. I’ll call you in the morning.
Love you too.” Jess disconnected the call with her mom and glanced back at the kids, Jeff had his earbuds in listening to music and the girls were both sleeping again. “Steve? I think I definitely want to carry while we’re at the cabin.
And on the way home, when we get to go home, I want you and I to each have access to a gun in the car. Just in case we run into a situation where we have to separate quickly again like with the flat tire.
We have the other guns and ammo in the tub in the back, but you were out there with just a flashlight. That wasn’t smart. It could have ended badly.” Steve glanced at Jess for a moment and nodded.
“I’ve been thinking the same thing.” he said. “With the firearms we have, it was stupid for me to go down the road like that without a weapon. For now, I know Ned is armed so I think we’re okay but once we get to the cabin, yes, we should each carry.” Jess nodded.
They drove in silence for a moment. Steve was weighing his next question carefully. “And…I think while we’re at the cabin, I should take some time to show Sammy how to shoot.” he saw Jess grimace but she nodded.
“You already know I don’t think she’s truly ready, but yes I agree. When I thought some stranger was stopping, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to protect the kids. What if it had been a stranger and he had shot one or both of us.
That would have left Jeff on his own to protect the girls. Things are not the same as they were last year when we had this conversation. But I hate that it’s come to her having to learn. You know guns aren’t her thing.” Steve nodded.
“I know Jess, believe me. But this hurricane is minor compared to what things could be like once the election happens in a couple weeks. People are primed for violence on both sides and I fear things will get ugly fast no matter which side wins.” Steve shook his head. “You know I hate this as much as you do.
With Jeff it was different. He was interested in hunting with me and he wanted to learn to shoot.” Jess nodded. She knew Steve understood and shared her fears about pushing Sammy to learn to shoot but she also knew that not pushing her to learn could potentially put her life in danger.
“I know. She needs to be able to protect herself if the need arises. But you’re going to have to find a way to talk to her about it without scaring her too badly.” Steve nodded.
“Maybe I’ll just start off reviewing loading, unloading, and safety stuff with Jeff and just get Sammy to sit in with us. Jeff knows his hunting rifles well, and I’ve started letting him target practice with the handguns this year, but he needs to know how to care for and maintain all our guns.
I think at the cabin, I should focus on the rifle for Sammy. If she takes to that okay, then we’ll try some target practice at the cabin so at least we know she can shoot straight if the need ever arises. I’m thinking that .22 rifle that was my first gun might suit her. It’s still at the cabin.”
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s hope Sammy can get on board with it without too much fuss.” Steve nodded. A short time later he made the turn onto the road that would take them to the cabin.
“You trust Ned, right? I was thinking since it’s late, I’d offer for him to spend the night at the cabin before he continues on to his place.” He glanced at Jess.
“You know, it’s funny but I do. I know there have been rumors over the years about him being crazy because of the bunker and all but he’s always been respectful and kind.
A little grumpy and isolated perhaps but not mean spirited. I’m okay with him staying the night if he doesn’t mind the pull out couch.” Jess said. Steve nodded.
“While we were replacing that tire, he mentioned his wife. He still misses her a lot. He told me the place he has in Blairsville was actually her idea. She wanted a place to get away from it all.
They started out vacationing there with their kids in the summers. She wasn’t much into prepping but she didn’t complain when he started stockpiling stuff. From what he mentioned, he’s got quite a nice setup there.
He did say she gave him quite a bit of trouble over the bunker at the house in Walterboro though.” Steve chuckled. “It reminded me of you when I wanted to put in the safe room.”
“Oh did it now?” Jess elbowed Steve playfully. “Well I for one am glad I let you talk me into it. It sure would have come in handy if we hadn’t decided to bug out this time.
And after what happened today, I understand even more why we need to do the things you’ve put in place. And I’m very grateful that you were so persistent about me learning to shoot when we first got married.” Steve grinned at her.
“You sure fought me on that, too. Remember? You told all your friends that you married Rambo without knowing it.” Jess nodded.
“I know I did. And I see now, you were right.” Jess admitted a bit sheepishly.
“WHAT? Can you say that last part again? I need to etch that to memory. I may never hear it again.” Jess poked him in the ribs.
“Oh stop.” Steve grinned at her. “You’re not ALWAYS wrong.” Jess teased him. “I’m just right more often.” Jess laughed as he gave her a sideways look. “There’s the turn for the cabin, don’t miss it.”
“I see it.” Steve chuckled. “You got your key for the gate?” Jess nodded. She pulled her purse from the floor by her feet and dug for her keyring.
“Got it.” Jess said holding the key up and swinging it. Steve turned into the cabin drive and braked suddenly.
“Jess, wait. The gate is open.” Steve said. Jess took her hand off the door handle and glanced up.
“What the hell?” she said in disbelief.
“Not sure. Stay in the car. I’m going to alert Crankston.” Jess nodded. She couldn’t believe the gate was open, it should have been locked. Steve got out of the car, took a few steps toward the gate to get a closer look.
To his dismay he could see the chain hanging. It had been cut. Steve leaned back into the car to let Jess know. “Stay here with the kids.” Jess nodded. Steve trotted back to Crankston’s truck which was now stopped behind their car.
Ned rolled his window down as Steve approached. Jess took a deep breath as she tried to calm her nerves. She couldn’t believe after all that had gone wrong today, now their cabin might not be safe.
“We may have a problem. The chain on the gate’s been cut. Someone’s been here since the last time we were here. I’ve got no way of knowing when or if they’re still here.” Steve said. Ned nodded and put his truck in park.
“Good thing I’m with ya then. Let’s go check it out.” Ned got out of his truck, and leaned back in to pull his shotgun from behind the seat. “I’m locked and loaded.” Ned tapped his hip holster. “You have more than that one handgun with you, right?” Steve nodded.
“Of course. I just have to get into the back of the Durango.”
“Good thing. Leave your little lady armed, just in case. I’ve seen first hand she can handle a weapon.” Steve grinned as he once again took the gas can storage off the Durango and opened the back.
“Yep that she can.” Steve pulled his gun box from the Durango and took out his Glock and S&W, and his shotgun. He tugged his ammo box toward him and opened it to pull ammo for the shotgun and his two handguns, plus a box of ammo for the 9mm in the glovebox that Jess would keep. “Okay, that should do it.”
“What’s going on now Dad?” Jeff had woken from him slumber when Steve opened the Durango. “Where are we?”
“We’re outside the cabin gate but the chain has been cut. Mr. Crankston and I are going to check it out first, just to be safe.”
“Give me a gun, Dad. I’ll go too.” Jeff said. He had his hand on the door handle ready to get out.
“No, Jeff. I need you to stay here with your mom and protect the girls.” Steve handed Jeff the box of 9mm ammo. “Pass that up to mom.” Jeff made a face but did as he was asked and handed the ammo to his mom.
“Whatever we find, we’ll handle it.” Crankston chimed in. Jeff glanced at his sisters who surprisingly were still sleeping.
“I’m hoping there’s no one here, but yes if we have to we have to.” Steve said.
“Dad, at least give me a gun and some ammo. I won’t use it unless there’s trouble coming.” Steve glanced at Jess in the front seat and she nodded.
“Okay. But the girls are in the car too, we need to be careful. I’ll get your .22 and ammo. Ned? Can you set him up over near the gate where he has a decent view?” Ned nodded.
“You bet. Come on, young man, let’s find you a vantage point.” Steve got back into the gun box to get the .22 and some ammo from the ammo box as Ned led Jeff to a spot near the gate. “You watch those woods for anyone coming out that isn’t us.” Mr. Crankston told Jeff just as Steve walked up. Jeff gave him a thumbs up.
“Don’t worry, Dad. Mom and I got this.” Jeff said. Steve knew most of Jeff’s confidence stemmed from the fact that he was a 16 year old boy who believed he was invincible, but he also knew Jeff was most comfortable with his .22.
“You remember the all clear and danger whistles we practiced over the summer?” Jeff nodded.
“I do, Dad. I was paying attention, I promise.” Jeff loaded his .22 and slipped the rest of the box into his pocket.
“Okay. If I give the all clear, you get back to the car and have mom drive it up to the cabin. If I give the danger whistle…you get back to the car and tell Mom to head for Grandma and Grandpa’s house. No exceptions, Got it?” Jeff nodded.
“I got it, Dad. But I think Mr. Crankston should move his truck so Mom can back out if she needs to.” Jeff said.
“Good thinking Jeff. That’s a smart boy ya got there Steve.” Mr. Crankston headed over to move his truck out of the drive and give Jess a clear path if she needed to leave quickly.
“Okay Jeff. Pay attention. No goofing off. This is important.” Steve said.
“Dad, I know.” Jeff’s voice was irritated. “I’m not a kid. I know this could be serious trouble.”
“Okay son. Be careful.” Steve walked back to the Durango. Jess was already in the driver’s seat and had turned off the headlights. “Okay, we’re going in. Jeff and I are using the clear and danger whistles. You get to your mom’s if there’s trouble. Ned and I will follow when we can.” He leaned in to kiss his wife. “I love you, Jess.”
“Me too. Be careful please.” Jess took a deep breath. She couldn’t believe what was happening but her heart swelled with pride at how well Steve had prepared their son to help protect them.
She watched Steve and Mr. Crankston go through the gate and then disappear into the woods, one of them on each side of the drive. From where she was in the car, she could just barely see Jeff near the gate. He was crouched with his back against a large tree. It was a good spot. He’d easily see anyone coming at him.
If anyone came from his blindspot, Jess would see them first. She sat in the driver’s seat, window down and loaded gun in her lap and prayed the girls would stay asleep and that whoever had been here was already gone.
(continue reading chapter 7 here)